Welch Hails Expected House Passage of Police Reform Bill with Vermont Racial Equity Advocates
MONTPELIER – Rep. Peter Welch and Vermont racial equity advocates on Thursday gathered in front of the Vermont State House to highlight the expected passage of the Justice in Policing Act by the U.S. House of Representatives Thursday evening. Welch was joined by Xusana Davis, Vermont director of racial equity; Skyler Nash, of the Vermont Racial Equity Alliance; Christel Tonoki, former Champlain Valley Union (CVU) student and member of the CVU Racial Justice Alliance; and Kyle Dodson, president of the Greater Burlington YMCA, to speak about the urgent need for police reform.
The George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, cosponsored by Welch and 230 other House members, includes important comprehensive reforms to hold police accountable, change the culture of law enforcement, and build trust between law enforcement and the communities they serve.
“Americans across the country are speaking out and demanding action to address the crisis of systematic racism and police brutality,” said Welch. “This bill is an important, concrete response to the pleas of millions of people for Congress to act. It will immediately prohibit deadly law enforcement tactics like chokeholds and will give citizens the tools to hold reckless officers accountable so that we can change the racist culture present in too many police departments. This bill is a comprehensive first step, but it is not enough. We must do more to build a more just society free of systemic racism that has held Black people down in our country for far too long.”
“The U.S. has weaponized the law against vulnerable populations for literal centuries, and it has done so at every level of government—local, state, and federal,” said Davis. “For this reason, it is imperative that we not rely simply on municipal or state-level law enforcement to make necessary changes to policing. We are ethically and legally bound to do this work at all levels of government. Of course, there is always more to be done, but this is a critical step in setting and maintaining higher standards, and becoming the just nation that we have for so long claimed to be.”
The George Floyd Justice in Policing Act (H.R. 7120) would:
- End deadly law enforcement tactics such as chokeholds, one of which killed Mr. Floyd, and no knock raids in drug cases, which led to the killing of Breonna Taylor.
- Eliminate qualified immunity for police officers, allowing citizens to hold police accountable in civil court if police violate their Constitutional rights.
- Require the use of body cameras and dashboard cameras by federal law enforcement, and require local law enforcement to use federal funds to ensure the use of body and dashboard cameras.
- End the militarization of police by limiting the transfer of military-grade equipment to state and local law enforcement.
- Establish a national police misconduct registry to prevent problematic officers who are fired or leave an agency from moving to another jurisdiction without any accountability.
- Amend federal criminal statute from a “willfulness” standard to a “recklessness” standard to ensure prosecutors are able to pursue and prosecute police misconduct.
- Establish public safety innovation grants for community-based organizations to create local commissions and task forces to help communities to re-imagine and develop concrete, just and equitable public safety approaches.
- Create law enforcement accreditation standard recommendations, and police training and data collection programs.
- Empower and improve the ability of the Department of Justice to investigate problematic police officers and departments. Under the Trump administration, investigation and oversight of problematic police departments has sharply declined.
A fact sheet on the bill can be found here.